Taliban power transition raises hopes for Afghan peace talks

KABUL (Neo Web Desk) The Taliban named Mullah Akhtar Mansour as their new leader on Friday, a historic power transition that raises hopes the relative moderate’s leadership will pave the way for an end to Afghanistan’s bloody war.The Taliban also announced his deputies — Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the Taliban-allied Haqqani network and has a $10 million US bounty on his head, and Haibatullah Akhundzada, former head of the Taliban courts.The appointment of Mansour, seen as a pragmatist and a proponent of peace talks, comes a day after the Taliban confirmed the death of their near-mythical leader Mullah Omar, who led the fractious group for some 20 years.The Taliban’s first handover of power comes at a time when the US-led Afghan government has been trying to jumpstart peace negotiations as it struggles to contain the intensifying insurgency.Mansour, a longtime trusted deputy of Omar, takes charge as the movement faces growing internal divisions and is threatened by the rise of the Islamic State group, the Middle East jihadist outfit that is making inroads in Afghanistan.”After (Omar’s) death the leadership council and Islamic scholars of the country, after long consultations, appointed his close and trusted friend and his former deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansour as the leader,” the Taliban said in a Pashto-language statement posted on their website.”When Mullah Omar was alive, Mullah Mansour was considered a trustworthy and appropriate person to take this heavy responsibility.”A Taliban official said that after the group’s ruling council had chosen a successor for Omar, the decision was supposed to be ratified by a college of religious clerics.Omar’s son Mullah Yakoub was favoured to take over by some commanders, sources said, but at 26 was considered too young and inexperienced for such a key role.Mansour’s appointment faced staunch internal resistance from some members of the Taliban’s ruling council, the Quetta Shura, who accuse Pakistan of hijacking the movement, sources said.”Mansour is considered as a man of Pakistan — that is why severe differences are going on among the Taliban leadership,” a mid-level Taliban official told AFP.But the internal opposition is unlikely to prevent Mansour from proceeding with peace talks launched in the Pakistani hill station of Murree earlier this month.

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